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More recycling on the farm could reduce environmental problems

Growing environmental problems resulting from farming argue for a shift toward practices that use lower inputs of pesticides and energy and more recycling of energy and materials, according to an article published in the May 2007 issue of BioScience. The author, Craig J. Pearson of the University of Guelph, documents how semiclosed agricultural systems -- which he terms "regenerative" -- could enhance global sustainability of biological resources, curtail greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater contamination, and reduce farming's reliance on oil imports and water.

A switch to regenerative agriculture would involve a variety of changes, including reduced use of inorganic fertilizers and more on-farm energy generation from wind and fermentation of biosolids. It would also reduce overcropping and leakage from manure storage that contaminates groundwater. Yet despite similarities, Pearson's concept of regenerative agriculture is distinct from organic farming; for example, regenerative agriculture could use some chemically treated fertilizer and would exploit robotic systems.

The approach would entail more use of human labor, which is costly, and may reduce output per unit area farmed. Pearson summarizes studies of organic farming suggesting, however, that price premiums could overcome this disadvantage, and points out that social benefits could be expected. Pearson argues that existing funding programs for farmers could be modified to encourage more regenerative agriculture, and suggests that philanthropists and professional bodies could stimulate its uptake.

Source:American Institute of Biological Sciences

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